I’m the CEO of a company called Halo, for 1-year we’ve been connecting people up locally and we’ve learnt a LOT about how to do this well along with the common pitfalls. Below is the part of our learnings from building local communities:
1. Make groups that last
We need to accept the fact that right now people are “panic organising” just as they are “panic buying”. Communities are delicate things, they require three aspects to function over the long-term:
- Trust — A community must feel private and relevant to its members
- Vulnerability — You must feel like you can be yourself there
- Purpose — It must have a shared activity which is long-term
2. Don’ts for group size & proximity
- Street-sized groups are too small, people don’t have enough to talk about and just living on a street won’t hold you together digitally. We see that after 30 days, the community will die out, at 90 days it’ll be gone completely bar 1 or 2 last messages; we call this hyperlocal fatigue.
- Ward-sized groups are too big, putting 4,000 people in a room makes for an excellent news-feed (Nextdoor/Facebook) but fails at point two of community building. Instead of enabling vulnerability, you can create a giant soapbox.
If you struggle to see why this is bad, imagine working in an office building of 4,000 people. You’d never meet everyone, even after years there. Aspire to build office floors, big enough to have the buzz, small enough to know everyone. ❤️
So what does good look like?
3. Do’s for group size & proximity
- 600 homes — Our data shows that at best, you’ll get 25% of people nearby wanting to take part in your community (regardless of how important it is). 150 people will join; while being Dunbar’s law, it’s also the best number we’ve found for creating a meaningful group. Personal yet with enough people to create a great sense of local community.
- Close enough to care — If you want a group that will last through the potential months of isolation, it needs to fill with people you can relate to. We’ve spent a long time on this, and for real bonds to be made we define a viable group as The people who live on a street I can name, OR within a 10-minute walk of where I live.
If you’re building communities that don’t fit these rules, over the next 2–3 months, you’ll see them fatigue and most likely fail. If you want the cohort data, message me. We have 1,000’s of examples.
4. Caution — A word on WhatsApp
WhatsApp groups for MutualAid are amazing at the “trust” aspect of community building, but today they have a problem. All over the world, people are making communities of neighbours, safe places to share intimate needs. But to grow them there are now 100’s (1,000's?) of google docs, public Facebook pages and website lists being formed. Google lists public links it finds in search. Some people are now in 100+ WhatsApp groups trying to co-ordinate and help…
But what if someone didn’t want to help? What if the goal was to find them all and spread fake news in a few months, please take care.
If you run a WhatsApp group, remember to invalidate your invite links monthly. If you’re the admin of a group, make sure everyone introduces, eject those that lurk. Lastly, ask to verify messages being forwarded, request a link to the information source; right now, fake news can kill.
So, what are we (Halo) doing?
From today, Halo can be used for all the local groups the UK needs. If you sign up now you’ll get:
- A Private group — secure and safe for you and those living near you
- Neighbour profiles — Meet your neighbours, say hi and feel connected to people in your area, no lurking users
- Instructions and a simple personalised invite you can print and post to letterboxes. (It takes 10 people 30-minutes each to invite the entire area)
- All the social-tools to keep in touch over the outbreak, and new local groups being launched each week to help (e.g. home-schooling, elderly care, send me hugs)
- Regular positive-reminders each week to help people feel that bit more connected
Join your group here: https://www.localhalo.com/coronavirus
We’ll all get through this together, I predict 2020 will be the year the world discovered just how wonderful the people nearby are :)